Fly Eagles Fly! And They Did, Here In Northeastern Pennsylvania And Minnesota.

As some of you may know, from my past blog posts, I am a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles football fan. It was an  exciting weekend for Eagles Fans.  The Eagles won  their first Super Bowl on Sunday!!!!  On Saturday, before the game,  I decided to drive to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center and see if I could see a live bald eagle for good luck and  in anticipation of the big game.Lehigh Gap Nature Center

I chose this area of the Lehigh River since I had seen  a bald eagle on my hike along the Lehigh Canal in Weissport last week. And my brother Mike often sees them here when he drives home from work. stone building at lehigh gap

I have been to the Lehigh Gap Nature Center before. It is where the Appalachian Trail crosses the Lehigh River. I have hiked up atop the Blue Mountain on the trail  from here. This time I decided to hike north on the D & L trail. It was partly sunny and a frigid  15 degrees when I began my hike.D & L trail at Lehigh gap

 I had only walked a few hundred yards when I saw a large bird in the distance flying toward me. Could it be? Yes it was!  I was delighted to discover that it was a bald eagle!bald eagle in flight

He or she flew directly over me and was looking down at me as he or she flew overhead.  I thought she or he nodded her head, telling me the Eagles will do just fine. I am always thrilled to see our National symbol in the wild. Even more so the day before my Eagles played in the Super Bowl.  These majestic birds  came so close to extinction a few decades ago.  I knew it was  good sign for me and my Philadelphia Eagles.  And sure enough it was. The Philadelphia Eagles flew just as high, beating the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII. Here is a link to some more photographs of the eagle. Bald Eagle February 3 2018.bald eagle in flight

I continued my walked along the river and noticed the huge blocks of ice that were scattered along the river banks.  Many were six inches to a foot thick. ice along Lehigh river

The river was mainly ice free now and was flowing rapidly from some rain and warmer weather we had last week. lehigh river

As I walked along, I startled many flocks of juncos who were feeding on the grasses and plants that grew along the trail.junco on ground

There were also quite a few cardinals in the trees along the trail and river. male cardinal in tree

The trail  turned to the northwest after about a mile or so and I walked into the shade.  It felt a lot colder without the sunshine.

The river was still in the sunshine  and I saw a few Canada geese

and a flock of common mergansers wading on it’s deep blue waters. 

I walked out to the Three Ponds Trail,  about two miles out from the nature center. The trail winds around some wetlands and three large ponds. The ponds are now frozen and lifeless but I would think there would be a lot of wildlife activity in the warmer months. 

I climbed up to the Prairie Grass. This trail is high above the D & L trail and the Lehigh river. 

It consists of native grasses which have grown on the soil that was contaminated by a zinc plants that operated nearby during the last century. I remember the barren hillsides when I would travel to Philadelphia as a child. The plant was closed and, with the help of conservationists, the hillsides are now making a comeback.

The trail were steep and ice covered in spots making for some difficult walking. The views, however were worth the effort. View of Lehigh River

In addition to the magnificent views of  river, mountains and towns below, I also saw this house in the distance atop Marshall’s Hill in Palmerton. It is remodeled now but I remember when it was run down and dilapidated. It looked like the house from the Adam’s Family. It was built by a retired Civil War general, Elisha Marshall, and was said to be haunted. 

The trail eventually began a steep, and ice covered, descent. I was surprised not to see or hear a single bird on the trail. I am sure there would be many migratory song birds up here in the Spring. 

The Prairie Grass Trail crossed another nice hiking trail the Lehigh-New England trail. I crossed this trail and walked down to the D & L trail but I plan to return and explore these paths again. Lehigh New England trail

I returned to the Nature Center seeing this beautiful blue bird along the way. Here is a link to some more birds I saw on my hike. Lehigh Gap Birdsblue bird on tree

I enjoyed my hike in the Lehigh Gap and will be  back to explore the many trails in warmer weather. I left  feeling good having seen an eagle. I knew it was a good omen. And it was. My Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl Champions. Fly Eagles Fly!!!! Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Lehigh Gap Nature Center hike February 3 2018. Buildings at Lehigh Gap Nature Center

“Farewell,” they cried, “Wherever you fare till your eyries receive you at the journey’s end!” That is the polite thing to say among eagles.

“May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails and the moon walks,” answered Gandalf, who knew the correct reply.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien

bald eagle in flight

 

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Fog And High Water On The Lehigh Canal In Weissport

After a night of heavy rain, a thick fog moved into parts of Northeastern Pennsylvania  on Sunday morning. I decided to check out the Lehigh River and hike the D & L trail  along old Lehigh Canal near Weissport. ice and fog on lehigh Canal

The fog was lifting  as I drove over the Broad Mountain but still remained along some of the ice covered portions  of the canal in Weissport. fog along Lehigh canal

The Lehigh River was now completely ice free and flowing rapidly, swollen with waters from the heavy rains and melting snow. Lehigh river near Weissport

I  would often see some ducks on the river during the first half mile of my walk along the canal but not on Sunday. I think the waters were moving to fast for the ducks. But I did see a few mallards on the canal, where the ice had melted.mallard ducks on canal

I also saw quite a few cardinals fluttering about in the trees between the river and canal.male cardinal on tree branch

And, always one of my favorite sightings, a mockingbird across the canal. mockingbird on ground

The walk along the canal was much different from the previous weeks when it was covered in snow and ice. The snow had all melted and much of the ice on the canal was gone too. The fog made it appear more like a day in the Fall than the end of January. fog on ice on Lehigh canal

As usual  in the winter I noticed a lot of bird nests in the bare tree branches that would have been almost invisible when the trees  are covered in leaves in the Spring and Summer. bird nest in tree

There is no where near the diversity of plants and flowers and the many colors they add to the landscape in the warmer months. But, if you look closely you can still find beauty in the dreary winter landscape.raindrop on red berrry

Even a blackberry bramble,raindrops on blackberry bramble

or briar berry has it’s own beauty.raindrops on briar berries

I continued my walk along the canal and walked past the Bridge To Nowhere and  to the observation deck  about 2.25 miles  out on the trail.observation deck along Lehigh river

I sat atop the deck and took in the beautiful scenery and listened to rushing  waters of the fast moving Lehigh River. Lehigh River from observation deck

A lone runner on the trail was the only person I saw during this quiet time at  this scenic spot on the trail. lehigh river from observation deck

I wish I could had stayed out all day but I had to begin my hike back to the parking lot. Along the way I saw a flock of Canada geese huddled on the shore of the swift moving waters of the river. Canada geese in lehigh river

I also heard a few black-capped chickadees in the treetops and a flock of these birds I couldn’t  identify. They were looking for insects in the tree bark and were finding them. bird with insect in beak

I didn’t see any on my hike, but there was plenty evidence of the many woodpeckers along the canal.holes in tree trunk made be woodpeckers

My day was complete when I saw the tail feathers of a bald eagle I must have startled as it flew away from me along the canal. I only caught a glimpse of this majestic bird but I always love seeing them on my hikes. I continued on my return hike, now meeting many hikers, bikers and runners enjoying this foggy day in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I am enjoying my hikes out along this old canal and can’t wait to see it in the Spring. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Lehigh  canal hike January 28 2019.lehigh canal trail

“Sometimes you can’t see the road ahead but as you keep going, it gets clearer. Stay the course as the fog of life dissipates.” 
― Sanjo Jendayi

 

 

 

 

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Pinchot State Forest: A Hike To Crystal Lake

It was a mild January day here in Northeastern Pennsylvania yesterday. I decided to explore the Pinchot State Forest and Crystal Lake. Located about 25 miles northeast of my home, I noticed the  lake on the maps when I  hiked in the nearby  State game lands in Dennison Township.Parking area D & L trail near Crystal Lake

It looked like there would be some wetlands around the lake and I hoped to see some wildlife on my hike. I arrived at a parking area along the the D & L Trail just outside of Glen Summit.  I met a fellow who was taking his dog for a walk on the road leading to the reservoir. He was ahead of me and would scare any wildlife  so I decided to walk up the  the Big Wapwallopen Creek to the lake. Big Wapwallopen Creek

I knew of the “Big Wap” from my high school days when my friends would fish this creek were it entered the Susquehanna River near Berwick. I had no idea it’s headwaters were up here. Big Wapwallopen creek

As I set out on my hike  I saw a group of woodpeckers fluttering in the trees above me. I believe they were hairy woodpeckers although it is hard to distinguish them from the very similar downy woodpecker. hairy woodpeckers in tree branches

I know  the lack of spots on the outer tail feathers and larger size of the  bill are the identifying features but it is still hard for me to tell the difference. hairy woodpecker with extended wings

It was a little rough walking up along the creek but it was worth seeing some of the ancient  hemlock and yellow  birch trees growing alongs the banks of the stream. 

I also came upon some old ruins which must have been associated with an  aqueduct that supplied the city of Wilkes-Barre with water many years ago. old ruins along creek

I continued my upward climb   along the creek until it got too steep and covered in thick brush.  I left the creek and followed a  path along a new waterline. It led me to the treatment facility of the local water company. I followed the road up to a large dam and  completely frozen Crystal Lake. It is situated atop what I think is Penobscot Mountain. ice covered Crystal lake

I am sure there would be plenty of birds and  waterfowl in the warmer months but I didn’t see  a living thing on the frozen waters. 

I followed a  trail that began near  the lake and proceeded south and east. I saw  a few   golden-crowned kinglets feeding in some thick woods at the start of the trail ,

and a nuthatch too.

I soon came upon some wetlands but there was no birds or other wildlife to be found on the frozen waters. 

The trail entered a large expanse of scrub oaks. I have hiked many hours  in the  scrub oak forest atop the mountains where I live.

These  forest are usually home to deer, small animals and, in the summer,  many species of birds. On this walk I didn’t see or hear any sound of wildlife for almost a mile. It was only when I neared  a few pitch pine trees towering over the scrub oaks that I heard a few blue jays and black-capped chickadees in the distance. 

The harsh weather conditions on top of the mountains in Northeastern Pennsylvania create these forest. And these same conditions make it a difficult place to live in the winter. ice covered trail

I walked out  about another mile before I decided to return. The sun was warming it up now but I still did not see a single bird in the scrub oak forest. I did see a few teaberries growing along the trail.tea berry

Once I neared the lake I again saw a few nuthatches, black-capped chickadee and this tufted titmouse. tufted titmouse on branch

I walked the road back to the parking area  and a flock of golden-crowned kinglets fluttered alongside me as I descended the mountain top. 

I was soon at my car, reading a guide and map of the Pinchot State Forest that I picked up at the parking area. I know I will be exploring the many large tracts of land that make up this forest in the near future. And I hope to find much more wildlife on my next visit to Crystal lake. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike to Crystal Lake. Crystal Lake hike photographs January 27 2018.

“A person does not grow from the ground like a vine or a tree, one is not part of a plot of land. Mankind has legs so it can wander.” 
― 
Roman Payne

 

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More Snow And Clouds At The PPL Wetlands

Last  Sunday I  again  awoke to find above freezing temperatures here at my home in Hazle Township. It was, for January, a mild  34 degrees. After my usual early morning walk through my neighborhood, I decided to visit the PPL Wetlands and check out  the Susquehanna River. The temperature was now 40 degrees.Susquehanna River

Usually it is a few degrees warmer at the wetlands. But, like the day before at the Lehigh River, I found it was much colder than at my home at a much higher elevation. The temperature was 25 degrees when I arrived. The river was mostly ice free  but there were  still over six inches of snow on the ground.snow covered trail

Contrary to the predictions of mild weather, a wintery walk it would be. bare tree branches

The snow and thick cloud cover made it a dreary white and gray  world.  So different from the many colors found in the wetlands in Spring, Summer and Fall. ice and snow covered pond

The drab colors made even the dead dry leaves still clinging to the beech treesbeech leaves

and oak trees stand out. brown oak leaves

The red winter berries  also provided a little color.

As did the bluish  berries remaining on the briars.briar berries

There were a few flocks of birds fluttering in the higher tree branches. It was hard for me to identify them or get good photographs in the dim white sky. I think they were black-capped chickadees and juncos. I was able to get a photograph of this nuthatch. nuthatch on tree

And this golden crowned kinglet. golden crowned kinglet

I also heard the rapping of the woodpeckers in the treetops and saw, in the distance another pileated woodpecker. Like the previous day I could not get a good photograph and it soon flew off in search of food. pileated woodpecker on tree trunk

There was no one else at usually crowded Lake Took-A While. The lake was also frozen and snow covered. snow covered trail along lake

It was peaceful, but difficult,  walking along the trail in the cold and snow. There were  not the almost endless variety of plants, insects, birds and animals found here in the summer.  However  you could find a different kind beauty if you looked  closely.

The dead remains of last years plants stood out in the whiteness of the snow. dead plant in snow

It won’t be long until we see the first sign of life. Next month the lowly skunk cabbage should be making it’s appearance, adding some green to the white wintery landscape. But for now only the browns of last years growth remain. catkins in snow

It was hard walking in the snow so I again decided to  end my hike after about two miles. On my walk back I saw a few more gold crowned kingletsgolden crowned kinglet on branch

a song sparrow ,song sparrow on branch

and this  red squirrel who bravely crawled out on this limb to take a look at me. red squirrel in tree

I found a few  of these holes dug in the snow. They were  made by the squirrels or  chipmunks digging up the nuts, seeds and acorns they buried last Fall. acorn  in snow

I ended my hike along the now swollen banks of the Susquehanna River. The recent heavy rain washed away most of the ice. I was  hoping to see some water fowl on the open water but none were to be found.  I did hear a flock of geese honking in the distance. Susquehanna River

I was disappointed in not seeing any sunshine  on my hike. And even more disappointed in not seeing more wildlife but it was still a great day to be outdoors in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. PPL Wetlands January 21 2018 dead plant in snow

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.” 
― Sinclair Lewisbird in flight

 

 

 

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Another Winter Walk Along The Lehigh River

The arctic weather continued on Sunday here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I awoke in the  morning to find a temperature of -4 degrees at my house.  The wind had subsided and the clear skies meant we would have some sunshine. I knew it would be cold but I wasn’t staying inside.  I decided  to return to  the Lehigh Canal in Weissport to see if the bitter cold had frozen the Lehigh River. frozen canal reflecting blue skies

The canal, on the outskirts of the town of Weissport,  was frozen solid. And again it was cleared of snow to allow ice-skating for the local residents.railroad tracks along Lehigh River

I decided to first walk to the railroad bridge over to the Lehigh River expecting to find the river  to be frozen. To my surprise it wasn’t. There was some ice build up along the river banks but it was flowing just as swiftly as it was last week. Partially frozen Lehigh River

I enjoyed the view of the  Lehigh River which reflected the deep blues skies and was contrasted by the white snow reflecting the sun.Partially frozen Lehigh River

I returned to the Lehigh Canal trail and found the same to be deserted on this frigid morning. The temperature at the trail was zero. snow covered trail on Lehigh Canal

As I continued my walk I once again encountered some of our familiar winter resident birds including a flock of  juncos or “snow birds” andjunco on branch

a few song sparrows hopping about in the dead grass along the banks of the canal.song sparrow on branch

After about a half mile on the trail I smelled the pleasant odor of a campfire. I soon saw a brave fellow ice fishing on the canal and warming himself next to a fire. He told me the fish weren’t biting, having only caught one. ice fisherman on frozen canal

I walked along the canal which ran along the Lehigh River but at varying distance, sometimes  as far as 100 yards, and at other areas right along the river. I enjoyed listening to the roaring of the waters on this cold day. snow covered trail on Lehigh Canal

I didn’t  see the mallard or goldeneye ducks on the river Sunday but I did spot these hardy Canada geese braving the frigid waters. canada geese on Lehigh River

I also saw a bird scampering up a tree trunk. At first I thought it was a nuthatch but they usually scamper down a tree trunk. I took a few photographs with my zoom lens and discovered, later at home, that it was a brown creeper. This was my first sighting of the bird. I enjoy finding and identifying (with much help from my birder friends) new species of birds. brown creeper on tree trunk

I also saw, for the first time,  this  winter resident. It hopped from tree branch to tree branch across the canal making it almost impossible to photograph. I was delighted when it flew across the canal and landed in a tree near me. It is a golden-crowned kinglet. golden crowned kinglet

It stayed nearby feeding on insects burrowed  in the trees branches Here is a link to some more photographs of this pretty little bird. Golden crowned kinglet. golden crowned kinglet in tree branch

There were also a few woodpeckers active in the frigid cold. woodpecker in tree

As well as the always present black-capped chickadees, black-capped chickadee on tree branch

and tufted titmice.tufted titmouse in tree 

I made it out to the “Bridge to nowhere” again, about two miles out. I stopped to rest a bit on this bench provided by a local church. I decided to head back. I was cold but invigorated by the  brilliant sunshine, the deep blues skies and white snow. I was also  enjoying so many birds on this cold Winter morning. I was hungry and wanted to watch some football or I might have hiked until dark. bench on trail

On the way back I was watching a few titmice in a tree when I saw this squirrel cautiously looking at me. There were again very few chipmunks or squirrels active in the cold.  And when they are they are very secretive.gray squirrel in tree

I believe it is because they are one of the few sources of food for this fellow I spotted high in another treetop. It is some type of hawk and I am sure it was looking for a squirrel or chipmunk to make a sudden, and last, move. Such is survival in the harshness of Winter.hawk in tree

On  my return hike I met  a number of folks who were braving the freezing temperatures to enjoy the Winter scenery and January sunshine. I also saw many of the same birds I saw on my hike out and another beautiful Winter resident, the colorful blue bird. blue bird eating winterberry

I was again very cold when I returned to my car. It was a cold well earned and which provided me with the peace and quiet I so love, the beauty of a frozen nature I so appreciate, and the observation of so many birds I so enjoy. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike along the Lehigh. Lehigh River hike January 7 2018 

blue bird on tree branch

“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.” 
― Robert Lynd

 

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A New Year Hike On The Lehigh Canal Trail

It  was a clear and frigid  start to the New Year here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It was one degree below zero when I went out for my morning walk.  The clear skies meant there would be sunshine and I decided to  check out the ice on the Lehigh River at Weissport.

I began my hike on the old Lehigh Canal trail. I  have a number of posts about the history of the canal in the archives of my blog. The canal was frozen solid and the local residents shoveled off the snow for ice skating the previous night. . I imagined the scene of folks skating on the canal for the almost  175 years of it’s existence..

I proceeded north, into a steady wind, on the snow covered trail. The skies were deep blue and the sun reflected off the powdery snow making the landscape look like a scene from  Dr. Zhivago  

 The Lehigh River sparkled under the blue skies and was already becoming covered in ice,

I was surprised to see quite a few birds on this frigid day, including a number of sparrows darting among the bush growing along the canal.

And a few cardinals adding some color to the white and blue scenery.

There were only a few fellow adventurers out on this cold morning including one gentleman on his bicycle. But there were also , surprisingly, a number of water fowl near the canals and on the river. The first I saw  was this male mallard  duck that flew overhead.

I think he was part of this group of what I think were female mallard ducks swimming in the cold currents of the Lehigh River. However, my bird identification skills are not the best and they may be black ducks. 

They were accompanied by this common goldeneye duck.

This was the first time I have seen one of these ducks on my many  hikes here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. common golden eye duck on river

I continued my walk in the frigid air but enjoyed the wintery scenery provided by the snow, the blue sky and the surrounding mountains. 

I usually hike, at least, to the railroad bridge over the Lehigh River. On New Year’s Day I only hiked out to the “bridge to nowhere” about two miles from the start of the trail 

This rest area, provided by a local church, is a nice stop to reflect on life, even more so on New Year’s Day and after the recent tragic loss of my sister and her husband.  Despite the cold, I sat and did some thinking about the contradiction between the beauty and cruelty of life. 

It was a more pleasant walk back, I now had my back to the wind. 

I saw a few more sparrows, sparrow in brush

and woodpeckers in the trees along the trail. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike. Lehigh Canal birds January 1 2018. woodpecker on tree branch

I was very cold by the time I had returned to the parking lot but I was glad I ventured out on this frigid morning. Despite the frigid weather spending a few hours outside was a good start to the New Year.  I hope I can continue my adventures ans sharing them here on my blog for another year. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Lehigh Canal January 1 2018.    

“There is always an adventure waiting in the woods.” 
― Katelyn S. Bolds

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PPL Wetlands Hike: What A Difference A Week Makes

The snow stopped late Saturday here in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  It left  a  accumulation of about three inches of  powdery, fine snow . Sunday brought more frigid arctic  weather with a morning low of 4 degrees. I decided to return to the PPL wetlands in Salem Township. I arrived to find a much different  world than my visit a week ago.snow covered pond

The woodlands were now a Winter wonderland. All of the ponds and canals were frozen and covered in snow.

I was surprised to find I wasn’t the first visitor on this frigid morning.  There was a set of footprints in the newly fallen snow and even more surprising was a set of bicycle tracks. Some folks were up early. I didn’t see who since I did not see a single person  on the 2 1/2 hours I hiked in the wetlands and river lands.

The skies were clear when I left my house but clouds moved in, obscuring the sun,  making for a dim , cold world of grays and whites.

As I began my hike I saw and a few woodpeckers and flickers tapping on the frozen trees trying to find insects that burrowed into the bark for the winter. 

There was little color in the wetlands the wetlands this weeks, The ferns and plants that sprouted during the warm  spell were now covered in snow. The only color was  the bright red winter berries.red winter berries

I saw no  birds on the first mile or so of my hike. It was eerily quiet. The only sounds were squeaking noises I made as I walked on the frigid snow. The first sound of life I heard was the friendly song of the black-capped chickadees. black capped chickadee in tree

It seems the birds that remain in our area in winter, even from different species.  travel together as they search the lifeless woodlands for food. I soon saw a few nuthatches,nuthatch on tree trunk

and a flock of dark eyed juncos

and I think this is one of the many swamp sparrows accompanying the chickadees in their search for food. sparrow in branches

Of course the many reptiles and amphibians that live in the wetlands are burrowed deeply in the ground or mud at the bottom of the ponds and canals. The only mammals I saw were a few chipmunks and squirrels. Unlike during the warmer months, when they would bravely peer from tree covered branches, they quickly scurried to their nests high in the tree tops or underground burrows. . And I believe this is the reason why. red tailed hawk in flight

Once again I saw a few red tailed hawks soaring overhead looking for a squirrel, chipmunk or other small mammal who was not cautious in the snow and leafless woodlands. red tailed hawk in flight

I walked to now frozen Lake Took-A-While and knew that the geese, herons and ducks would have now flown to open waters further south. cooling towers Lake Took-A-While PPL Wetlands

It was extremely cold and windy  so I decided to walk back  near the river trail.  On my return hike  I was able to some more color on  the this cold gray day. This cardinal was fluttering along the canals. I also saw the mockingbird in the same area but it avoided my attempts to get a photograph.cardinal in tree branches

There were also some more woodpeckers in the trees including this red bellied one, red bellied woodpecker on tree branch

And a few tufted titmice tagging along   another flock of black-capped chickadees. 

I walked back to the wetlands and took  trail along the Susquehanna River. Last week the river was ice free but there was already ice forming on the slow moving waters.

As I was watching the ice flow down the river, I spotted a pair of common mergansers  in the cold waters.  As I tried to get closer for a better photograph, they flew off and so did a flock of about 30 of them. These two were in the  rear of the large flock. 

I was glad to make it back to my car which I quickly started and turned up the heat. It was nice to walk in the pretty winter scenery of the wetlands on the last day of the year. . I did get to see some wildlife. But I will readily admit, Winter is not my favorite season. Especially on such a frigid day. But even with the forecast of below zero temperatures, you know I will be back next weekend. I love  the outdoors of Northeastern Pennsylvania even in the coldest weather. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. PPL Wetland hike. December 31 2017, Happy New Year!!! 

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.      Henry David Thoreau

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Cold And Snow: A Year End Walk At The Rails To Trails

The warm spell I wrote about in my last post ended on Christmas Day here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Cold returned. Temperature plunged into the single digits this week. I had planned to drive to the PPL Wetland this morning to see how much ice developed on the Susquehanna River. A light but steady snowfall slickened the roads and changed my plans.snow covered highway

I decided to stay in town and hike out our local Rails to Trails.  A light powdery snow was falling as I began my hike with about a two inch accumulation already on the ground. snow covered entrance to Rails to trails

The temperature had actually warmed up to 11 degrees. It had been near zero the past few days. It was still cold enough to make the snow “squeak” as I walked on it. tree lined and snow covered path

And cold enough to make these two bears shiver. snow covered bear statues

I was the only one on the trail on my five mile hike although there were two other sets of footprints in the newly fallen snow. 

Other than the beautiful scenery created by thetree lined path in snow  fresh snow there was not much else to photograph. Although  the remains of the summer plants like this milkweed pod,snow covered milkweed pod

or this blackberry bramble were pretty covered in snow.snow covered blackberry branch

The only wildlife I encountered were the many black-capped chickadees that fluttered through the snow covered trees. black-capped chickadee in tree

I walked under the snow covered trees, enjoying my favorite, the pitch pines. pitch pine in snow

The snow continued to fall as I made my way to the picnic area near the now frozen Dreck Creek Reservoir.snow covered picnic area

It was about a 2 1/2 mile hike out to the reservoir but it sure felt longer in the snow and cold. I decided to walk back.

It was a lot harder walking in the now deeper snow, and the cold temperatures made for a difficult walk. I was tired when I reached the one mile marker and was exhausted when I made it back to my car. snow covered path

It was a struggle walking in the cold and snow but the scenery was pretty and much better than sitting inside watching television. Still I much prefer the greens of summer, and am looking forward to the lengthening days and approach of Spring. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. Rails to Trails Hike. December 30 2017snow covered woodlands

“The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches.” 
― E.E. Cummingspine cone covered in snow

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Christmas Eve At The PPL Wetlands. A December Thaw.

Christmas Eve is not a day for last minute shopping for me. I dislike shopping most days and wasn’t going near a store on Christmas Eve. Instead, I decided, of course,  to spend my day outdoors.  After a cold snap two weeks ago, we had some rain and warmer weather here in  Northeastern Pennsylvania.  I decided to see how it affected  the PPL Wetlands. tree lined pond

I knew the warm weather would have melted the earlier snowfall but I was surprised to find this pond and some of the canals were  completely ice free. tree lined path along canal

I did find some duck weed that is still  struggling  to live for a few more days  under some remaining ice.duck weed under ice

Th e warmer temperatures and  rain even brought some life back to a few  species of ferns,green fern at wetlands

and these plants, green plant growth in wetlands

which I can’t identify, also came back to life. . It is not the lush growth found here in the wetlands in the Summer  but it already had  me thinking of and longing for Spring.sunlit green plant growth

And there certainly wasn’t the abundance of wildlife that is found in the warmer months but I did see a few species of birds including my first sighting of this yellow bellied sap sucker. yellow bellied sap sucker on tree trunk

I often heard jokes about this bird on cartoons and sitcoms when I was  a child and now I can say I finally have seen  one. 

I also encountered this beautiful bird. One that reminds me of my dad, a mockingbird. . It landed on a branch near me and seemed to be watching me. I love their singing and have never seen one in the Winter before. mockingbird on branch

I continued on my hike and found  some ponds still covered in a thin layer of ice.   There were no water fowl in the wetlands on my Christmas Eve hike, not even the usual Canada geese. And with colder weather on the way they may be gone until Spring.ice on pond

In addition to the unusual birds above I did see a few flocks of “snow birds” or dark eyed juncos. They were again enjoying the white berries of the poison ivy vines. junco on branch

There were also a few tufted  titmice fluttering in the bare underbrush.tufted titmouse on branch

And some nuthatches scampering  on the tree trunks. 

All of the birds, and the few squirrels and chipmunks I saw were very cautious and secretive. Probably because of the lack of leaf cover, the smaller number of other wildlife in the cold and the red tailed hawks soaring overhead looking for a Christmas Eve snack. Here is a link to some more photographs of the birds I saw at the wetlands. PPL Wetlands birds 12/24/2017red tailed hawk in flight

I was surprised when I got to Lake Took-A-While and found it still had some ice on it’s waters. Another reason that the Canada geese were not to be found. lake and trees

I walked down to the Susquehanna River and found that it was  ice free. Last week there was already ice sheets forming on the waters of the river. 

Not on Christmas Eve.No ice on the river on Sunday.  It was a pleasant and mild December with temperatures in the mid 30’s.  Mild weather was not going to last long.  The forecast for a white Christmas came true. We had a two inch snowfall later that evening. And temperatures plummeted on Christmas Day. It is four degrees  as I finish this post Friday  morning. And colder weather on the way.

I am not sure if I will find any wildlife at the PPL Wetlands this weekend, but I am sure of one thing, there will be a lot more ice on the river, ponds and canals. Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike on Christmas Eve. PPL Wetlands 11/24/2017.

God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, 
but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars. 
~ Martin Luther ~mushroom on log

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Glen Onoko: Another Snowy Hike Along The Lehigh River

There was still a lot of snow on the ground last Sunday, and, since I don’t like cross country skies or snow shoes, I decided to again  hike the compacted snow left by  the snowmobiles  on the D & L Trail, this time at Glen Onoko.Lehigh River Glen Onoko -1

I arrived at the trail under mostly  clear blue skies and the strong March sun. The temperatures were more like Alaska than Northeastern Pennsylvania in March, a frigid 12 degrees when I began my hike.Lehigh River Glen Onoko -2

I encountered another photographer on my walk and we had a nice chat about the trail and the surrounding area and it’s history .Lehigh River Glen Onoko -7

As we walked along the still active railroad tracks into the gorge we  ran into these dog sledding enthusiasts, making me again feel like I was in Alaska.Lehigh River Glen Onoko -1

We we treated to this interesting situation of what happens when two dog sled teams cross paths. It seemed the dogs had to stop and socialize a bit, much to the frustration of their owners. Lehigh River Glen Onoko -5

My new photographer friend stayed to photographs the dog sled teams and I continued my hike  along the gorge. Lehigh River Glen Onoko -2

I encountered a few folks on snow mobiles along the way, a cross country skier and one dedicated woman running in the snow. Lehigh River Glen Onoko -27

I hike along the winding Lehigh River as it flowed through the mountains, as it did for thousands of years, creating the steep cliffs of the gorge. Lehigh River Glen Onoko -21

It is truly a beautiful place to hike, any time of the year , yes even with 20 inches of snow on the ground, and frigid temperatures. You just got to dress warm. Lehigh River Glen Onoko -33

I hiked past the Pioneer Oil Pipe line. I did a blog post on the interesting history of this pipeline, one of the first in the country. It can be found in the archives. I believe it now carries fiber optic cables. Lehigh River Glen Onoko -22

The March sun was higher in the sky now and it began to melt the top layers of the snow, causing me to break through the top compacted layer created by the snow mobiles and making walking difficult. And it was a long walk back.Lehigh River Glen Onoko -38

 The exhausting walks required a few rests along the way, which wasn’t a bad thing. I love listening to the flow of the river. Here is a link to a video I uploaded https://youtu.be/6czdSjxMpNgto YouTubeLehigh River Glen Onoko -35

I saw little wild life on my hike, no bears, Lehigh River Glen Onoko -6

but a few birdsLehigh River Glen Onoko -29

including a few  turkey vultures soaring overhead. Lehigh River Glen Onoko -30

And even a few insects, a sure sign of spring.Lehigh River Glen Onoko -39

It was a cold and tiring hike but well worth the effort to once again enjoy the beauty that surrounds us here in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Hopefully the rain, and warmer temperatures  forecast for this weekend will melt the snow and make walking a bit easier. Sorry,  to my dog sledding and snowmobiling friends, but it’s time for Spring! Here is a link to some more photographs from my hike. http://www.keepyoureyespeeled.net/photographs-2017/nggallery/photographs-2017/Lehigh-River-Gorge-Glen-Onoko-March-19-2017-Lehigh River Glen Onoko -11

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says ‘Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’”
―Lewis Carroll

 

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